World

We’ll have to see if summit is on: Trump

N. Korea threatens pullout of summit as US draws criticism over Iran deal and embassy in Jerusalem

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump acknowledged on Wednesday that it was unclear if his summit with North Korea would go ahead after Pyongyang threatened to pull out of the unprecedented meeting, a move that could deny him a potentially major foreign policy achievement.

North Korea threw into doubt the June 12 summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and Mr Trump on Wednesday, saying it might not attend if Washington continues to demand it unilaterally abandon its nuclear arsenal.

North Korea also called off talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday, blaming US-South Korean military exercises.

"We'll have to see," Mr Trump told reporters when asked if the summit was still on, though he insisted he would not back down from his demand for the North's denuclearisation.

"No decision, we haven't been notified at all... We haven't seen anything, we haven't heard anything," he said.

Mr Trump's muted response was in contrast to a few days ago when he exulted over North Korea's release of three Americans, welcoming them home with praise for Mr Kim and expressing hopes that the summit would produce "something very meaningful".

Mr Trump's aides - who, according to one US official, were caught off guard by North Korea's warning - were working on Wednesday to determine whether it was a negotiating ploy by Pyongyang or an attempt to scuttle the summit.

Cancellation of the summit, the first between US and North Korean leaders, would deal a major blow to what would be the biggest diplomatic achievement of Mr Trump's presidency.

This comes at a time when his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has drawn criticism internationally and his move of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has fuelled deadly violence on the Israel-Gaza border.

Mr Trump has raised expectations for the summit even as many analysts have been sceptical about the chances of bridging the gap because of questions about North Korea's willingness to give up a nuclear arsenal that it says can hit the United States.

The White House is still hopeful the summit would take place, but Mr Trump is prepared for a tough negotiation.

North Korea's First Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Kim Kye Gwan, cast doubt on whether the summit, set in Singapore, would be held.

He specifically criticised US national security adviser John Bolton, who has called for North Korea to quickly give up its nuclear arsenal in a deal that would mirror Libya's abandonment of its programme for weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea clashed with Mr Bolton when he worked under the Bush administration.

In an interview with Fox News Radio, Mr Bolton brushed aside the remarks against him and said the odds were still in favour of the summit going ahead. - REUTERS

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